For Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday was on Tuesday, February 12th, because we don’t remember him, or his poets, as often as we did, as often as we should:
by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét, from A Book of Americans
Lincoln was a long man.
He liked the out of doors.
He liked the wind blowing
And the talk in country stores.
He liked telling stories.
He liked telling jokes.
“Abe’s quite a character,”
Said quite a lot of folks.
Lots of folks in Springfield
Saw him every day,
Walking down the street
In his gaunt, long way.
Shawl around his shoulders,
Letters in his hat.
“That’s Abe Lincoln.”
They thought no more than that.
Knew that he was honest,
Guessed that he was odd,
Knew he had a cross wife
Though she was a Todd.
Knew he had three little boys
Who liked to shout and play,
Knew he had a lot of debts
It took him years to pay.
Knew his clothes and knew his house.
“That’s his office, here.
Blame good lawyer, on the whole,
Though he’s sort of queer.
“Sure he went to Congress, once.
But he didn’t stay.
Can’t expect us all to be
Smart as Henry Clay.
“Need a man for troubled times?
Well, I guess we do.
Wonder who we’ll ever find?
Yes — I wonder who.”
That is how they met and talked,
Knowing and unknowing.
Lincoln was the green pine.
Lincoln kept on growing.
O Captain! My Captain! from Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still; My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will; The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
* * *
I was looking for some extra links to add to this post and found these, at AbrahamLincolnOnline.org:
HipWriterMama is hosting today’s Poetry Friday round-up, and she also has the perfect Hilaire Belloc poem to help keep her first grader’s classmates
scared straight in line when it comes to looking after books. Thanks, HPW!